Product Management can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be
Recognizing this isolated nature of Product Management and seeking avenues for connection and support is critical to your growth and survival as a PM
In my past roles in engineering and design, I have experienced the camaraderie and collaboration that comes with being part of a team. These roles offered plenty of opportunities to connect with peers, share in the day-to-day challenges, and sometimes even work together on projects. As a junior developer, I collaborated on a project with a back-end engineer while handling the front-end aspects. Our routine included daily calls and working sessions, sometimes including pair programming, where I would learn a lot. We'd often have time to have other casual conversations, and we became friends and are still good friends many years later.
However, my journey into Product Management has revealed a contrasting experience. Product Management can often feel like a solitary pursuit. In many organizations, even when other Product Managers are present, they typically work on different teams or operate at different levels, resulting in minimal overlap in work contexts. Opportunities for meaningful interaction are generally confined to planning sessions, and the day is usually packed with back-to-back meetings, leaving little room for casual engagement.
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It's common in smaller companies (with at most 40 employees) to find a single Product Manager overseeing multiple facets of product development. This scenario also extends to larger organizations, where you might find only one Product Manager amidst other roles. Unlike in software engineering, where teams often consist of a mix of junior, senior, and lead engineers working collaboratively, Product Managers usually find themselves in a unique position of solitude, shouldering a broad spectrum of responsibilities.
This also means limited growth and coaching opportunities from more senior PMs in your company. You're likely the only PM on your team, working under product leaders at a VP level who lead multiple teams and don't always have the context or time to coach you.
Recognizing this isolated nature of Product Management and seeking avenues for connection and support is critical to your growth and survival as a PM. Here are several ways for Product Managers to engage with the broader community and alleviate the sense of isolation:
Focused on achieving specific goals or skills within a set timeframe, coaching offers personalized guidance and encourages introspective thinking.
Mentoring involves receiving advice from seasoned professionals who have achieved career milestones you aspire to reach. It is often an ongoing, long-term engagement, blending elements of coaching.
Meetups and Networking Events
These events are excellent for hearing from industry experts and connecting with fellow Product Managers.
Whether virtual or face-to-face, coffee chats present an informal setting to build relationships with other Product Managers, potentially leading to mentorship or new job opportunities.
Online Networking Groups (Slack, WhatsApp, Discord)
Joining these groups can be a great way to network, although they may become overwhelming due to the large number of participants.
Social Media Engagement (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Sharing your professional journey and processes on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can lead to meaningful connections and discussions with other Product Managers.
Bootcamps or Courses
Participating in PM-specific or broader tech-related courses allows for interactions with early-career and experienced Product Managers.
Attending industry conferences offers learning opportunities from guest speakers and a chance to network with peers. Aim to leave with new connections and follow up with them post-conference.
The path of a Product Manager, while often solitary, need not be lonely. Actively seeking and engaging in communities and networks that align with your professional and personal growth objectives is critical. From coaching and mentoring to participating in industry events and online platforms, each avenue offers unique opportunities to connect, learn, and evolve. Embrace the initiative to reach out and welcome interactions from others. Your next significant collaboration, mentor, career opportunity, or friendship could be a discussion or event away.
🧐 Do you have other suggestions, or do you want to share your experience of loneliness in a product management role? I reply to every email and comment and would love to hear from you. 💬
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